Saturday, June 18, 2016

Sergio A. Mims: Violinist Braimah Kanneh-Mason, 18, is the second oldest of seven super-musical siblings from Nottingham.

European String Teachers Association

Braimah Kanneh-Mason

Kanneh-Mason Trio

Sergio A. Mims writes:

I know many of your readers will be interested in this interview


Q&A with Braimah Kanneh-Mason


Violinist Braimah Kanneh-Mason, 18, is the second oldest of seven super-musical siblings from Nottingham. He achieved Grade 8 Distinction at the age of 12, distinction at DipABRSM, and has won a place to study at London’s Royal Academy of Music, where he previously attended Junior Academy, studying with Nicole Wilson. He is a member of Chineke!, and as part of a family ensemble, performed on Britain’s Got Talent. He tells us about what he’s working on, and his hopes for the future of diversity in classical music.

What’s your plan?
I’d love to be a chamber musician and to teach. At the moment I’m in a piano trio with my oldest sister, Isata, and my brother Sheku, who’s in the year below me.
Why chamber music?
I like the social aspect as well as the collaboration. Orchestras are also social, but with chamber music you only have one player to a part and it’s quite intimate. It teaches you a lot of transferable skills, like team work and working hard. It’s very useful.

What were the auditions for music college like?

Your practice time increases and everything becomes more intense. My auditions were quite close together, which was good in a way, rather than being intense for a long period of time. I played the Mozart G major Concerto, and the first movement of the Brahms G major sonata. For about a year before I was doing on average three hours a day; during that term, four hours; and five hours for the two or three weeks before the audition. I enjoyed it. When you practise, there’s nothing more satisfying than when you improve and you’re playing better than you have before.

How has your teacher helped you?

When I first went to Nicole, my concentration would waver when I was performing. I’d get nervous and I wouldn’t play as well as when I practised. She introduced something called the ‘memory palace’. If you had to remember a list of ten objects, starting, for example, with a kangaroo and a watch, it would be hard to remember, but if you said you came into the foyer and a kangaroo handed you a watch, it’s much easier. We did that for the Mozart and the Brahms. For the opening two chords of the Mozart, the palace doors are opening, and then there are children running around. It takes your mind away from everything – it’s just you and the music. It helps with memory, but it was more to improve my performance and communication, and to take away my worried expression. It was a relief. At first you have to build it up, but now I find myself running away with it, rather than having to think about it.

How did you start the violin?

I started on the piano when I was six because my sister played. A year later she started playing the violin, so I started, too, and it quickly became my favourite. I liked the sound – it was more like a voice. I realised I was getting better at it more quickly than my sister, which is something I didn’t achieve on the piano. My mum taught me violin for about a month and then I went to a local teacher, Nadia Hinson, who I had until I went to Junior Academy, where I started with
Julia Jasinski.
Did you want to practise?
At first you practise because your parents tell you to, but I really started to enjoy it and by the time I was eight I became more independent. When I did summer music courses I found myself practising more, and also when I came to Junior Academy.
What was it like being on Britain’s Got Talent?
It was fun to play in front of the cameras. It was a week of being quite famous, which is something we’ll always look back at with a smile. Our first reaction when we got on was that it wasn’t for classical music, but then we talked about it and said it would be a good experience. We’ve had the odd gig since then where we’ve played that kind repertoire. It’s not what we’d like to do solely, but it’s good to try things out if opportunities come your way.
How do you feel when people talk about classical music being ‘boring’?
In the semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent, Simon Cowell said, ‘It’s nice to see you’re happy, because a lot of people are quite miserable when they play this kind of music.’ Of course, on stage I had to smile but I was thinking, ‘No, they’re not miserable. There’s concentration and there’s being miserable, and they are two different things.’

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